UNITED NATIONS, AUG. 23 -- U.S. hopes for a Security Council resolution permitting U.N. members to enforce sanctions against Iraq through military means moved a step closer to realization today as ambassadors of the council's five permanent members agreed on a draft resolution to be considered by their governments.
"We agreed among the five on a text that we agreed to refer to our capitals," U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering said. "And that's now being examined in our capitals."
Pickering has been pushing since last weekend for a resolution that would put a U.N. umbrella over the naval forces of the United States and other Western powers deployed in the Persian Gulf to interdict shipping to and from Iraq and Iraqi-occupied Kuwait.
The main sticking point has involved U.S. desire for a vaguely worded resolution that would put such a U.N. stamp on the operations while allowing individual governments to retain control over their forces. However, the Soviets, supported by several Third World countries, want the resolution to specify a greater degree of U.N. control over interdiction activities.
The Soviets also feel that greater emphasis should be put on diplomacy at this stage and that a military-enforcement resolution should be reserved until there is clear evidence that the sanctions have been violated.
It was not immediately clear whether the new draft worked out by Pickering in consultation with the ambassadors of the Soviet Union, France, Britain and China would break the impasse blocking adoption of a formal resolution.
In fact, Pickering's statement touched off some confusion when reporters asked the acting Soviet ambassador, Valentin Lozinsky, if there was an agreement. He replied: "No, no. That's a wrong impression."
Later, Pickering, emerging from a meeting during which he presented the draft resolution to the seven council members who also belong to the Non-Aligned Movement, implied that Lozinsky apparently had misunderstood a reporter's description of his comments.
"There is no disparity," Pickering said. "I said we agreed to send a draft to be considered by our governments. It is up to our governments now to respond to these drafts."
Asked when that was likely to be, Pickering said, "As soon as possible." He added that he couldn't give a timetable for future council meetings, but other U.S. diplomatic sources said the Bush administration still wants a quick resolution to the military-action issue. Some referred to a time frame of 24 to 48 hours.
The United States called an informal meeting of the Security Council's sanctions committee tonight, and U.S. sources said Pickering would present evidence that Iraq is trying to get around the embargo by using business contacts in other countries and by continuing to send out its tankers, such as the two that docked Tuesday in the Yemeni port of Aden.
The sources said they did not expect Pickering to single out any country. But other sources added that the United States is not entirely convinced by Yemen's assurances that it will not unload or use the oil from the Iraqi tankers in Aden and is concerned that Libya's national airline continues to fly into Iraq.